Top Korean Songs of 2012

TKSo2012 single 01


2012 epik highFor reasons I cannot explain, I wasn’t too fond of Epik High‘s “Don’t Hate Me” when it first debuted. It wasn’t so much its pop-ness, because I was completely fine with that aspect of the song, but something … else. Perhaps it was the tacky visual levels of the music video? Well, whatever. What I do know is that now, after spending some time relishing in Epik High’s comeback album ‘99‘, the effects of this song have suddenly clicked, and I’m feeling it.

The uplifting melodies and pop-rock direction gave Epik High’s rap leads a really fun atmosphere to play in and came across as fun and quirky as they were intended to be. In fact, the idea of Epik High unloading all these bright pop elements at this moment in their career felt just right, and it was a pleasant change in pace from everything they’ve already done. I mean, we have an entire repertoire of awesome rap and hip-hop ditties to enjoy, that a full on major label Epik High project hasn’t, in any way, detracted from their musical integrity. Rather, it has enhanced it. – McRoth


2012_exo-k_mamaOh, EXO. How far we’ve come in such a short amount of time. We developed such an odd relationship long before your debut, yet I’ve somehow come to forgive your million teasers and bold (albeit refurbished) sound, as I’ve also come to admire the ambitious fervor behind it all. You were clean and crisp in the advances before your debut, while sloppy and self-conscious once you were here. Yet, through all the hype and the gloss, you’ve grown. You’ve grown as performers and you’ve grown on me as idols. I have a fucking favorite now. I may even secretly stan you little shits. Not because SM Entertainment made it so easy to, but because you’re starting to show so much promise as one of SM’s strongest debuting rookies to date and your talent is palpable. It’s obvious.

The one moment that truly set you on my radar though, is when I listened to your song, “Into Your World (Angel)“. Not only is it pretty, it’s ridiculously beautiful. From the distant high hats to the subtle tambourine, metronome-like claps and airy harmonies. Everything falls perfectly into place, and your gorgeous voices shine like gems in every fucking second of this breathtaking number. And then that chorus. My God, what a chorus. It sets a solid, paved road in your future to do incredibly great things with your talent and I am all in, baby. – McRoth

More from EXO this year:
“What is Love” Review
“History” Review
‘MAMA’ Mini-Album Review
Tracking EXO Planet
“History” MV | “This Is Love” MV | “MAMA” MV


electric-shock-coverWhat SM Entertainment did with f(x) this year was interesting, if I may say so. On the one hand, they managed to retain all the uniqueness of the group, while on the other revamp and improve the execution dramatically. f(x)’s comeback album was, admittedly, a strong one and while nothing was as aggressively cavity-inducing as their 2011 work, it was certainly still impressive and as electrifying as its title implies.

While we touched on f(x) in the Mid-Year Roundup, I have to chime in and show lead single “Electric Shock” some love, as it kind of sorta became a staple in my music library. With its addicting hook, interesting syncopation, and crisp production value, f(x) nana-na-na-na-na-ed their way into my subconscious. It’s also worth giving a shout-out to remixer Rex, who blew my mind to smithereens this summer when he released this glorious remix of “Electric Shock”, which I may or may not still listen to more than the original and may or may not have been the sole reason why this song is on this list … fabulous job, buddy! – McRoth

More from f(x) this year:
‘Electric Shock’ Mini-Album Review
“Electric Shock” MV


2012_G-Dragon_one of a kind 02I am such a big fan of G-Dragon‘s ‘Heartbreaker‘ debut solo album of 2009 (the physical album itself still sits atop my desk at home), that living up to it somehow felt like a tough undertaking for the feisty BIGBANG leader. Yet, true to form, the dude went and nailed it again with his 2012 solo release of ‘One of a Kind‘.

While the mini-album felt less cohesive to me as a whole, the individual tracks themselves remained top notch. No song proved this best than the title track, “One of a Kind”, which blended GD’s current hip-hop inclination with the always tight YG production value. The end result: a far stronger version of what TOP‘s “Turn It Up” 2010 solo track could never be. – McRoth

More from G-Dragon this year:
‘One of a Kind’ Mini-Album Review
“One of a Kind” MV | “That XX” MV | “Crayon” MV


2012_gainHead bobbing percussions, spare keyboard, and moody piano. It’s to no one’s surprise that I live for Yoon Jong Shin‘s work, and eat it all up like a starving dog. But his work for Brown Eyed Girls‘ maknae, Ga-In, had me transfixed since its release. The combination of soft piano and electronic drone effects mixed with the drums is sexy and gorgeous.

If that was it, “Gaze” would still be great, but Ga-In and Yoon Jong Shin’s delivery of the lyrics bring the ballad to cloud nine. And like a cloud, the climax brings you down easy, just like good sex should. – drowningn00b

More from Ga-in this year:
‘Talk About S’ Mini-Album Review
“Bloom” MV

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45 thoughts on “Top Korean Songs of 2012

  1. B.A.P! Warrior definitely set the trend for this year… after Warrior, rookie groups are going for the bad-ass dark concepts..
    the song is definitely memorable and i never get tired listening to it.. still my favorite B.A.P song. its almost a year and im still blasting this song in my car..hehe

    • i doubt ‘warrior’ was much of a trend-setter; that streak of dark concepts started before that in the last few months of 2011. Kpop trends are partly based on the seasons and u tend to get more uplifting tunes in the summer and dreary, somber ones in winter; there are exceptions to that but these general trends are nothing new really. I also suspect that a lot of these more mature concepts (not just dark or bad-assed ones specifically) are becoming more prevalent because the public are tired of the cutesy gimmick and companies are picking up on that change in demand.

      • I agree with you about warrior being conceptually ‘trend-setting’, as pop everything is perpetually repetitive. But as far as setting a level of production value and quality, BAP were definitely one of the first to execute K-Pop in a far more cleaner package than before. 2010 was a hotass mess compared to how things work now. Which is a great thing.

        The cutesy thing lasted foreverrrr.

  2. Yes yes yes yes and yes. I really agree with today’s songs. Every song on Epik High’s most recent mini has grown on me more and more with each listen except for “UP” (I just really can’t get down with Bom on the chorus. It’s too grating to my ears). “Don’t Hate Me” isn’t my top fave from the album, but definitely such a great song to watch them perform live. And then you bring in Ga-in!!!! HER MINI ALBUM SLAAAAYED.

  3. I found my way here after seeing a B1A4 fanbase retweeting a tweet regarding your top korean songs of 2012 tweet. Tbh, I was expecting you to do a title track review/response like any other site so I was quite surprised that you talked about this time is over. That song is one of my favourite B1A4 song and I agree that it did not get as much love as it should have so I appreciate it a lot that you wrote about it :) Thank you ~

  4. I like most of your choices. I agree 100% with what you wrote about BAP. I loved warrior and wish they’d just promoted it for 6 months rather than release any of their other recent tracks. Also BtoB Wow was one of my biggest jams of the year and made me fall in love with the group. Surprise to see Ailee’s new song here rather than ‘Heaven’. I’m a huge fan of the girl but find her newest song soo boring. Block B did great this year too.

    Other songs I’ve loved this year are Cross Gene La di da di, Exid Every night (my standout song of the year tbh, never tire of it), Vixx Superhero and Exo what is love (Exo M version).

  5. Just notice under More from EXO this year: “This is Love” Review. Shouldn’t it be “What is Love”?
    and how do you use ‘ and ” for song/album titles? At first I thought you used ‘ for albums and ” for singles, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

    • You’re right: it is “What is Love”. I’ll fix that.

      And if you’re confused by how reviews looked/look, it’s because I use ” for all album/single in the titles of reviews, whereas I use ‘ for album titles and ” for singles and track titles within the reviews themselves.

      Another thing that confuses is that, at one point, reviews were posted FIRST on Asian Junkie (we’re buds and have had a little agreement about my reviews being on his site), so he would edit them for his site and I would then post them once they were public. That stopped a few months ago, so now reviews follow the ‘ and ” rule that I prefer.

      He just ” ‘s everything … lol Sorry for the confusion.

  6. While I 100% agree that DJ Clazzi’s work with 2AM’s Seulong “How We Feel” is one of the under appreciated great songs out there, that song was released in mid 2011 :))
    Oh, and female vocalist Whale took part on that song too.

    • I’m well aware. Yet, as it belongs to an album that was released this year (Infant), its appearance still honors the free-standing rule (established last year) that songs are eligible to be on our TKSO list if they were released in one shape or form in 2012. Since Infant was officially released in January 2012, “How We Feel” and every track on the album qualifies. By this logic, Orange Caramel’s “Shanghai Romance” is also be eligible to land on this list :o

      I hope that clears things up a bit. Basically, any song qualifies to land on a 2012 best-of list if it was released as a single or as a part of an album within the span of a year.

      In this particular case, I wanted to feature ‘Infant’ and I felt this song was/is the strongest representation of the quality of that album :)

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  8. So many great songs off this list so far. K.Will definitely made a amazing album this year and Jo Kwon made himself stand out with his performances of “Animal.”
    Hmmm….creating a playlist of these songs doesn’t sound like a bad idea. :)

  9. ♫ ticket one way, ticket one way ♫ There’s a reason why this is my most-played song out of the ones I added this year.

    And PJY’s album is one of very few K-pop albums I could listen to the whole way through.

  10. “Eric’s lulzy rap in Venus”? how? then what’s Andy’s & Junjin’s rap parts then? lolz. That’s really the 1st I heard from various reviews (fan’s & non fan’s) for Venus or The Return ablum. Not being bias but aside from the poise & harmony from the main vocalists, Eric’s rap part in Venus is one of the highlights and it adds also edginess to the song (as well as Junjin’s part)

    • lol you’re so right! It’s not just Eric with a lulzy rap, but everyone else, too haha

      Just kidding. But really, I just gotta giggle when Eric says “E R I C” :P Anyway, the song itself is great and thanks for your commentary.

  11. Great list! Me and my BF (who I converted to Kpop this year) have been jamming out to this playlist for the past 2 weeks. It was great to relish favorites that I liked but never downloaded (how did I forget to add Run when I already added Supersonic and If We Changed??) and songs that I missed, ex. Seo In Guk and B1A4. Happy Holidays the whole team and here’s to another year’s worth of music v(^_^v)♪

    • That’s great to hear. I’m glad that the songs are worth sharing to fresh-converts and that it helped you find newer jams along the way.

      Cheers and happy holidays to you and your family, too!

  12. Love the list! The only songs that I would also include are something from EXID (I absolutely loved ‘I Feel Good’ and ‘Every Night’) as well as T-ara – putting their scandals aside, Day by Day and Sexy Love were very enjoyable songs.

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  14. If I tell the truth…I’ve never actually listened to these bands before although I have heard of a couple of the bands…I mostly listen to groups like BEAST, BigBang, EXO-K and Super Junior and occasionally 2PM

  15. I’m just now seeing this after half a year, but I feel the need to comment anyways. “Angel” as on of the best songs of the year? Whoooooa, I really have to disagree. It’s the only song on that album that I find really annoying. “Machine”, I think, is a much better song. It just absorbs you.

    I’m super glad that “Don’t Hate Me” is on this list! I LOVED that song so much over the year. I may not listen to it as much anymore, but I still rock out whenever it’s playing.

    John Park’s “Falling”. Just thinking about it makes me relaxed and happy. :)

    Oh, my gosh! “Rock Ur Body”! I loved that song more than “Don’t Hate Me”! For about five months straight, I played that song every day. It’s just super fun.

    The only song I think is missing from this list is “Stop Girl” by U-Kiss. Even if it wasn’t super well known, it was still groovy (in a good way). I enjoy it so much that I’ve trained my non k-pop friends to finish my sentence when I say “Stop Girl”.

    • Aw, I loooove “Angel”, especially the M version. It’s just so light and soft compared to the heavy-hitting mini-album. That said though, I also love “Machine”, too. I still rotate that song when I listen to K-Pop.

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